The second issue of Battle for the Cowl moves things along at a fair old pace. I must admit, one thing I’m taking away from this three issue mini-series (which I’m enjoying immensely), is that it could’ve easily been a bit longer.
Once again, Tony Daniel is firing on all cylanders here. Ignoring my pet-peeve that he’s drawing Huntress in the wrong costume (although at least its consistent), the art in this series is cracking, and I’m enjoying the story a lot.
Unlike last issue, this issue brings the focus very much onto the three Robins. The gun-toting Batman is quickly revealed as Jason Todd (to non-one’s surprise) and he and Nightwing immediately clash over Jason’s methods, with Jason determined that he is the true successor to Batman, doing what is necessary turning Batman into something to be feared, whereas Nightwing had just buried him. It all culminates in Jason shooting Damian in the chest, forcing Nightwing to focus on getting Damian back to the cave for surgery.
Its nice to see Jason back to his more brutal self. Its something that got a bit lost during Countdown’s various attempts to redeem him, however as I’ve often said, I’ve felt the only time the character’s worked since his resurrection was as the Red Hood, and this direction feels very much in tune with that take on the character. Again Jason is back to trying to clean up Gotham in his own way, and his brutal methods are taking him over the line.
All this forces Nightwing to question his own actions. Without Batman, things have gone from bad to worse in Gotham, and in talking to Alfred, Dick comes to accept that Gotham needs the symbol of Batman, but also that he needs to continue Bruce’s legacy. Its a nice page with Dick realising this, surrounded by the bats in the cave. Of course, when he goes over to the costumes, he discovers one is missing, having been taken by Tim.
As we saw last issue, Tim had already realised that one of them would have to take over Bruce’s role, if only to prevent someone else from doing it. He’s taken it on himself to track down Jason, and discovers that Jason’s built his own batcave under the city. Again, its a great piece of art when the cave’s revealed. Tim trips an explosive trap left by Jason, but is rescued by Catwoman, however before long they get jumped by Jason, returning after his confrontation with Damian and Nightwing.
A brutal fight between Tim and Jason ensues, with Tim seemingly getting the upper hand, managing to beat Jason down with a crowbar, in a nice nod to Death in the Family. However the issue closes with the reveal that Jason manages to stab Tim in the chest with a batarang, leaving only Nightwing in his way.
I’ll say it now, I can’t see them killing off Tim in this way. Throughout the recent big shakeups in DC’s big names (specifically Flash and GL), pain has been taken to respect all the characters, since you have to assume DC don’t want to anger readers to the point of dropping any titles. And if they were to kill off Tim I could see exactly that happening. Tim’s an incredibly popular character, but more than that, with Dick taking over the role of Batman, and Bruce gone, Tim fills the detective role in the team in a way no one else can (especially since we don’t know what’s happening with Barbara at the moment).
The final fates of Jason and Tim are probably the biggest mystery in this series. With it being fairly obvious from early on that Dick and Damian are the new Batman and Robin, where exactly Tim and Jason will end up is the question. There’s the Red Robin book coming out, but that could go to either character, however I’d really like to see Tim in that role. Ideally, to be honest, I’d rather see Tim take up the Nightwing mantle, but for now that name seems to belong to the Superman family, so given the lack of it, Tim taking up the Red Robin costume, as a symbol of how he’s grown makes sense. Given this however, I’ve no idea where Jason will end up. Taking up his Red Hood guise at this point might be a step back for the character, but I’m unsure what identity he could take up, unless he ends up dead or in Arkham. Certainly I’m at least glad to see them have a decent grasp on the character again at any rate.